Vaccination pain management for adults: Guidance for health care providers

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Overview

Vaccination is important at every stage of life. However, for some people, vaccination can cause pain and stress, which can make them less likely to receive future vaccinations. Health care providers play an important role in a person’s decision to be vaccinated and their comfort during this process.

For optimal protection, it is important to review a patient’s vaccination record at every opportunity and offer any needed vaccines, especially those that may have been missed. 

As a health care provider, you have an opportunity to give people a positive experience by reducing vaccination stress-related responses, including:

Building trust with your patients increases the likelihood of future vaccine acceptance for them and their families.

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Improving the vaccination experience

There are a number of ways to make vaccine injections more comfortable for adults.

The CARD system is an evidence-based framework for delivering vaccinations that reduces stress-related responses. Each letter category incorporates strategies that reduce pain, fear and fainting.

Some examples include:

Follow evidence-based practices for reducing pain from injection:

  1. Select the appropriate needle length and gauge to minimize pain.
  2. If giving multiple separate injections, start with the vaccine that causes the least amount of pain or discomfort.
  3. Do not aspirate during injection.
  4. Inject vaccines quickly.

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Muscle tension technique

If a patient feels dizzy or faint during an injection, have them squeeze the muscles in their legs and stomach. Ask them to keep squeezing for 10-15 seconds until their face feels warm. Have them relax for 20-30 seconds and then ask them to repeat a few times or until the symptoms go away. Alternatively, they can lie down during the procedure.

Needle fear

If a patient has a high level of needle fear, consider referral to a mental health expert, such as a psychologist. Treating needle fear can help alleviate the stress that is sometimes associated with needles. Overcoming needle fear will increase comfort and help patients to be more accepting of future vaccinations and other needle procedures.

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